Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

HP Propelling Linux Into Truly 'Big' Time

Filed under
Linux

In a move that suggests Linux is finally ready for prime time, Hewlett-Packard is giving the free software a bigger role on some of its toughest servers.

Martin Fink, long HP's point man on Linux, now oversees the NonStop unit.

As the name implies, these are industrial-strength computers -- HP's most expensive -- built to never break down.

Fink's mission: Make sure Linux and other open-source programs that HP looks to use are up to NonStop standards.

And that mission remains unchanged after HP on Tuesday said it would cut its work force by 10% and make several other structural changes to boost its results, part of a long-expected shake-up from new Chief Executive Mark Hurd.

Open-source software has caught on fast as techies embrace the freedom it brings. Unlike most commercial applications, open-source software lets anyone see the underlying code. People can copy it, tweak it and give away their improved versions.

But Linux and other open-source projects have mostly stuck to less demanding tasks on smaller machines.

That's changing. Linux is working its way into bigger systems, and Fink says it won't be long before the software rules the data center server segment.

Bringing open-source software to the NonStop platform is a big part of HP's plan to catch that wave. Fink recently spoke with IBD about his plans for the unit.

IBD: How did you get to oversee two distinct parts of HP's business, Linux and NonStop?

Fink: It's not all that intuitive to a lot of people.

I want to stress that there's no temporary assignment here. My job with the open-source operation continues to be permanent, and my job with the NonStop group is a permanent assignment.

IBD: How are the jobs related?

Fink: Over the last five years, we have seen Linux grow from the edge of the network to running infrastructure to starting to grow into (other) lines of business.

If you map that out over time, what you see is Linux getting to the point of really penetrating the data center.

Now, we could have lots of arguments about what the timing is and the degree of penetration. Some will argue that there's already penetration today. That's probably true.

Others will say Linux is still not ready for the data center. That's also probably true. It depends on the customer.

IBD: Is Linux ready for NonStop?

Fink: Our engineers were already working together in a number of areas to combine open-source and NonStop stuff in innovative and creative ways.
Then we saw the opportunity to get ahead of this curve.

We know that's where open source and Linux will end up. We can start to drive and be ahead of that growth in open source.

We're taking all the experience, knowledge and capabilities we have in NonStop and seeing how we can bring all of those to open source.

IBD: What's your first order of business?

Fink: I still need to run NonStop as the NonStop business. So there's a piece of that in which I put Linux and open source aside and realize NonStop is responsible for running the stock exchanges of the world and connecting most cell phones.

Over the past seven weeks or so, I've been making sure I understand that business. There's an expectation that's very high from those customers that the business continues to run unaffected.

IBD: What about your Linux and open-source duties?

Fink: Another piece of the job is connecting the dots (between NonStop and open-source software).
IBD: What's going on there?

Fink: We have a number of things we're looking at -- some of those things I'm not ready to talk about yet.

They include everything from how to potentially get Linux running on NonStop to taking the 200 open-source projects that run on NonStop and turning that into 2,000 open-source projects running on NonStop.

There's a variety of other activities we think are interesting and will bring a lot of enterprise-class credibility to Linux and open source.

IBD: Your rivals have embraced open-source software to some degree. How is HP's approach different?

Fink: Dell has yet to make moves to accelerate or support Linux and open source in any form in the data center.

They're basically jamming boxes through the supply chain. If Linux lands on some of them, they're happy. So there's no real competitive angle there.

IBD: What about Sun Microsystems?

Fink: Sun has tried a couple of different things. They've flip-flopped a number of times (between) "We love Linux" and "We hate Linux." Right now, they're on the "We hate (Linux software seller) Red Hat" bandwagon.

Solaris 10 (on Intel-compatible systems, which Sun recently made open source) has not gained a lot of traction from what we've seen. They're not a big competitive force.

IBD: And what about IBM It's been a huge Linux booster.

Fink: IBM has long touted Linux on the mainframe.
Yet we don't see a lot of installations out there being used in a constructive way.

Rather than just do Linux on a mainframe, we want to bring those mainframe-class capabilities to Linux and open source. That's the part IBM hasn't done.

IBM talks loud about open source, but I don't see a lot of credibility there.

IBM hates the GPL.

(GPL is the general public license used by Linux and many other open-source programs. It requires anyone using the software to offer offshoot products as free, open software.)

They do everything they can to avoid the GPL because they don't like the GPL model.

What they're after is to chain (customers) to (its middleware platform) WebSphere and (its database software) DB/2.

IBD: Which makes sense from a shareholder perspective. What is HP after?

Fink: The Linux market is growing 30% to 35% a year. Our goal is to capture as much of that market as we can as it grows -- all of it if we can.

By Ken Spencer Brown
Investor's Business Daily

More in Tux Machines

Open source SDR SBC runs Snappy Ubuntu on Cyclone V

The open source, $299 “LimeSDR” board runs Snappy Ubuntu Core on a Cyclone V, and supports user-defined radios ranging from ZigBee to LTE. UK-based Lime Microsystems, which develops field programmable RF (FPRF) transceivers for wireless broadband systems, has launched an open source software defined radio (SDR) board on CrowdSupply. Like other Linux-based SDR systems we’ve seen, the LimeSDR uses an FPGA to help orchestrate wireless communications that can be tuned, manipulated, and reconfigured to different wireless standards via software. Read more

Critical Infrastructure Goes Open Source

The electrical grid, water, roads and bridges—the infrastructure we take for granted—is seldom noticed until it's unavailable. The burgeoning open source software movement is taking steps to help rebuild crumbling U.S. civil infrastructure while capitalizing on expansion in emerging markets by providing software building blocks to help develop interoperable and secure transportation, electric power, oil and gas as well as the healthcare infrastructure. Under a program launched in April called the Civil Infrastructure Platform, the Linux Foundation said the initiative would provide "an open source base layer of industrial grade software to enable the use and implementation of software building blocks for civil infrastructure." Read more

Where have all the MacBooks gone at Linux conferences?

In past years, the vast ocean of Apple logos really undercut any statement of “Linux is great.” People would, inevitably, retort with, “Then why are all the 'Linux People' using Macs?” Admittedly, that was a great point and has been a source of shame for many of us for a very long time. But now things are different. The Apple logos are (mostly) gone from Linux conferences. This may be an unscientific observation from one person attending a few conferences in North America. Regardless, it's a great feeling. Read more

Leftovers: Ubuntu

  • Ubuntu 16.04 to-do list
    UBUNTU 16.04 or Xenial Xerus, the latest upgrade of the popular Linux distribution, became available as a free download last month, and early reviews have been favorable. Instead of upgrading my existing Ubuntu 15.10 system, this time I opted for a fresh install. I also decided to give the improved Unity 7 desktop a go, instead of installing my preferred alternative XFCE. The installation process was trouble-free, but because I started from scratch, I had quite a bit to add and tweak after the OS itself was installed.
  • Ubuntu Founder Pledges No Back Doors in Linux
    VIDEO: Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and Ubuntu, discusses what might be coming in Ubuntu 16.10 later this year and why security is something he will never compromise. Ubuntu developers are gathering this week for the Ubuntu Online Summit (UOS), which runs from May 3-5, to discuss development plans for the upcoming Ubuntu 16.10 Linux distribution release, code-named "Yakkety Yak."
  • Ubuntu & Other Ubuntu Spins Look At Making Room To Grow
    With Ubuntu's install images continuing to be oversized with pushing 1.4GB on recent releases, Ubuntu developer Steve Langasek has raised the new limit for Ubuntu desktop images to 2GB. Other Ubuntu flavors are also following in this move. Langasek has raised the size limit for images now to 2GB for being able to accomodate the current oversized images plus still having room to grow.
  • Ubuntu’s Snap packages aren’t yet as secure as Canonical’s marketing claims
    Canonical has been talking up Snaps, a new type of package format featured in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. “Users can install a snap without having to worry whether it will have an impact on their other apps or their system,” reads Canonical’s announcement. But this isn’t true, as prominent free software developer Matthew Garrett recently pointed out.